Saturday, 2 June 2012

Books set in the countryside

or in small towns and villages were under discussion on "An Awfully Big Blog Adventure" this week.  Cathy Butler wrote about how these were the books she enjoyed as a child growing up in the 60's and 70's.
Yesterday I was lucky enough to be driven through the hills behind me. I had to go to Hahndorf with a friend. Hahndorf is actually a tourist town. The shops along the main street reflect this. They make the most of the early German settlement origins of the town. You can buy all many of "German" foods and "Australian" souvenirs etc. The friend I went with and I did what we had to do and had lunch (off the main street!) and left again.
We came back "the long way around" as she wanted to look at something else. That meant going through the winding back roads. There are some non-native trees that have been planted in our hills, many of them are "liquid amber" trees. At this time of the year - late autumn and early winter in the southern hemisphere - they are a spectacular colour. They stand out against the dull grey-green of our local trees like pillars of gold and fire. If you looked down into the gully beside the road we were travelling on there were brilliant yellow patches of fallen leaves. One tree ahead of us was bright maroon and green. We looked in silence until we reached the more built up area again. Magnificent would not begin to describe it.
City children rarely, if ever, see this sort of thing. The children who live in the area are surrounded by it all the time. They are also surrounded by the dangers of bushfires, the difficulties of ensuring there is a water supply, the mud and dust from unsealed roads and all the other difficulties of living in a rural area - even one which is just a short distance from the city.
Do they notice it? I mentioned this to someone else and she shrugged and said, "Probably not. If it was around you all the time you probably would not notice it or appreciate it."
I am not so sure. Your environment has to have an impact on you. I thought of someone else I know. She spent a year of her life living in Hahndorf. That was the year she and her three brothers were free to roam the countryside. She considers herself a city girl through and through but they all enjoyed that year. Now an adult she still feels that one of her favourite books from childhood was Colin Thiele's "Sun on the Stubble" - a book set in an area similar to Hahndorf. She has passed it on to her own children and now grandchildren.  It is, she says, a way of experiencing the country.  It is, she tells me, "what books are for". 

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